Our Living Room From Beginning To End

Last week, I shared lots of before and after pics of our newly finished living room. I always love a good before and after, but those often fail to convey the struggle in getting from the before to the after. And while some rooms are pretty straightforward in the path from the original state to the finished state, that doesn’t describe my living room at all. There was nothing straightforward about the journey from original to finished in this room. I took so many winding paths, had so many failed attempts, and experienced so much frustration along the way.

It literally took years for me to find my vision for this room, and I know many of you can relate to that. So I wanted to take a look back and not just compare the original room to the final room, but actually take a look at the process along the way. It’s a very winding trail, and even this is only part of the story. These are just the highlights of years of misdirection, indecisiveness, failed attempts, all mixed with some true progress and necessary steps (like new drywall and lighting) all along the way.

August 2013

Here’s how the room looked when we moved in — green carpet, off-white walls, mismatched windows (some original, one aluminum), old curtains, polystyrene ceiling tiles, and a window unit air conditioner.

living room - before 2

September 2013

I removed all of the green carpet and refinished the hardwood floors underneath. This first time around, I used Waterlox on the floors. Waterlox has its advantages, but the floors got more orange as time went on.

November 2013

This was the first iteration of the living room. This was a quick fix, which I called Phase 1, and certainly not meant to be a permanent design. I just wanted to get paint and a chair rail on the walls, and get some furniture in the room so that it would be usable. But why did I go with brown walls? That doesn’t seem like me at all.

November 2013

I rearranged the furniture. I tried many different furniture arrangements after this, but interestingly, I wound up back at this arrangement in the end.

December 2013

I made window treatments for the living room — pinch-pleated draperies for the front windows, and relaxed Roman shades for the side windows, further solidifying this color palette that seems nothing like my style and taste.

January 2014

I finally had enough of the brown walls (thank goodness!) and painted the walls dark teal. While I no longer have dark teal walls in my living room, this color — Behr Mythic Forest — is prominent throughout our house.

February 2014

I built the original version of the fireplace. I wasn’t able to build the overmantel at this time because the eroom still had the original polystyrene ceiling tiles, so I didn’t want to build anything that would go all the way to the ceiling.

March 2014

The room still had the original mismatched windows and polystyrene ceiling tiles, so this was as finished as the living room was going to get at that time, complete with painted sofa.

October 2014

I added some trim to the fireplace to make it look much more traditional look.

April 2015

The polystyrene tiles (and old drywall) on the ceiling were finally gone! With the help of my father-in-law, we had all new drywall, as well as new recessed lights.

September 2015

My father-in-law came back, and we redrywalled the walls in the living room. Here’s with the old drywall removed and the shiplap underneath exposed.

September 2015

Before the new drywall went up, I decided that there needed to be an opening between the kitchen and the living room. It’s hard to believe that these rooms were so closed off from each other. Now, this opening seems like it was always there.

October 2015

The old windows were finally replaced with new windows.

January 2016

Since the room had new drywall, I was finally able to build an overmantel on the fireplace.

March 2016

I added picture frame molding to the walls, and painted all of the walls white. This was back when I tried to turn the room into a dining room. That didn’t quite work out. 😀

March 2016

I decided I couldn’t live with stark white walls, so I painted the walls above the chair rail a pale green.

May 2016

Still planning to use the room as a dining room, I made black and white striped draperies for the room.

November 2016

I decided to give up on the idea of turning the room into a dining room, and started making plans to use it as a living room.

November 2016

I painted the fireplace gray. It was a huge fail.

November 2016

I painted the fireplace a darker gray. It was much better than my first attempt.

December 2016

I made new draperies for the room. This was attempt #2 for the windows.

December 2016

I decided that picture frame molding just didn’t work in this room (there was too little wall space and way too many things like doorways, windows, and a fireplace to work around, so it looked way too busy).

December 2016

I painted the room…again. This time I went with an icy light blue.

February 2017

I refinished the floors for a second time, and this time I used a multi-step process using Minwax stain and polyurethane. The color turned out much better this second time.

November 2017

I had yet a new wall color (is this the fourth?) and some new furniture. I was still flailing a bit with the room, but I had at least finally stumbled upon the rug that would lead me to the final design of this room.

January 2018

I finally landed on the right fireplace color (for me). It’s a custom color that I mixed myself, and then had color matched at Benjamin Moore. Things were finally heading in the right direction.

April 2018

I tried one more window treatment idea that didn’t make the final cut – DIY lined draperies with Greek key trim.

October 2019

I got a new sofa and new fabric for the curtains. Things were finally starting to fall into place. BUT…I tried this furniture arrangement, which I loved at first, but didn’t work out in the long run.

November 2019

I got the pink curtains finished (except for the hem), and I really feel like this was the turning point. After seven years of struggling and struggling and being incredibly frustrated with this room, these pink curtains seemed to bring some long-needed clarity.

May 2021

With a new furniture arrangement, a few pieces of new furniture, and some finishing touches, the room was finally finished.

finished living room - 15

I was a long and winding path, and I struggled more with this room than I ever have with any other room in my life, but the struggle was worth it.

If you missed the before and after post (which just focuses on the lots of before pictures and many more after pictures, and not much of all of this in between), you can find that here.



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  1. Love that you share the progress and the design changes. So many don’t show when they’ve changed their minds. Love the finished room.

  2. It looks beautiful! I actually enjoyed seeing your process! I actually got inspiration from your portico and did one on my back door! Original installation by contractors was an epic fail. For days as they continue to install siding, they tried to convince me it was fine. Over one of the weekends, I took matters into my own hands. Superpowers came over me! I had about one half down, my husband step out (which if you knew my husband he is a call, someone, to do it kind of guy) ask if I needed help and we proceed to take down the rest. I knew if I left it I would regret it. I love my little portico, thank you for giving me the courage to go for it.

  3. I love the newest look. You better be careful tho . . . a friend’s husband tried to BS her. Told her she could only paint the drywall 3 times before it would have to be torn out and replaced. We both had a good laugh over that one! But then she thought, what if he’s right? LOL

      1. Very nice to know that even a designer struggles! Thanks for keeping it real and taking us along. It’s beautiful.

    1. Thank you for this. I just purchased my first home and I needed to see that I’m not alone in this

    2. Wow quite the journey, I am not sure I have the patience or imagination that you do. I love that you chose pink and some very creative colors in your final reveal. You have a unique Style.

  4. I’ve been here for ALL of the living rooms! And I’ve been inspired by each!!
    I recently finished my own living room, and it took forever! So I am extra impressed at all of your versions and how they have built on each other and reflected your increasing skill.
    I’d be proud to live in a house with any version, and love that you kept going and evolved along with the times and your own style. YAY you!!!

  5. It usually takes me several paint color and furniture/decor iterations until I finally get a room just right. Seeing how someone as talented as yourself also has a “process” of discovery makes me feel better about myself, especially because I get a lot of pushback from my family for my (to them) frequent repainting! Thank you for being so genuine with your audience.

    1. Carol…the SAME thing happens to me! I guess we need to evolve and need to be able to change our minds. I think if I showed this post to my husband he would never talk to me again about making changes! BUT I gotta say, Kristi does beautiful work each time, and truly, it started out pretty bad! Some did NOT look like her taste…especially in the beginning with the browns. I think the newly finished room is lovely and I’m happy for her to have it done, and can now enjoy it.

  6. Love it now and it’s amazing the difference just having that one end table next to the sofa makes. Also, didn’t realise how long ago you found that rug, seems so much more recent!!

  7. I firmly believe that it takes at least 10 years to get your home to suit YOU. I have been in my house for 8 years and am finally getting an idea of what I want to do. I just worked on my mud room and it finally makes me happy, now on to the laundry room. I keep a page in my planner for each room update I want to do and put a “goal date” on when I want to be finished. Of course I do this in pencil so I can re-figure the date. LOL Thanks for the inspiration you provide. I love your choices and the fact that you are honest about all the mistakes you have made along the way.

  8. I’ve also been here with you for all the changes! It’s amazing the journey this took, but oh how beautiful now!!! I’m sure you’re so happy now you could do a dance 😂🤣 You deserve all the accolades that come your way!!!

  9. I want to know what you did with all of the beautiful window treatments that you ultimately rejected??? They were all too good to pitch!

  10. Thanks for taking us down memory lane. As others have indicated here, it’s reassuring that experimenting and the “fooling around” approach can yield the best results.

  11. What a journey! I’ve been with you through practically all of it, and kept thinking hmm! not quite right! But the skills and the learning experiences just kept building and now, by George! you’ve got it! A beautiful living room that says Kristi all over. Love it!

  12. You have turned your living room into a beautiful, cozy space, Kristi! I had actually forgotten about the shiplap under the original drywall! That was a great walk down memory lane. And believe it or not, as your worked your way through, I felt your frustration right along with you! And I feel your happiness now that it finally feels like you! Great job!

  13. I’m relieved that just because I’m an amateur, I’m not alone in struggling with the right look for my living room. I have been in my current home just 2 years and was ill for most of last summer and fall so I have not had the time to get the walls painted. I am now doing better and I plan to work on them this summer. I hope what I have planned will lighten up my very dark living room! Fingers crossed!!

  14. I absolutely love the dark blue/purple Greek Key curtains from 2018! A search for diy curtains lead me to your blog, and I’m so glad it did. I enjoy reading about how fearless you are with design and construction. Thanks for sharing your process and progress with all of us.

    1. I just have to wonder if this drove your husband bat crazy with the constant changes and wasted money?

      1. Not even a tiny bit. I have a budget that I can spend on the house each month (and I rarely go over), and he couldn’t care less what I do on the house or how many times I redo something. If I said I wanted to start over on the living room today and completely redo it, he wouldn’t bat an eye or give me any pushback whatsoever.

  15. I forgot about all the iterations of this room. I don’t even remember the brown walls though I do remember the curtains and furniture. Still in love with the pink drapes.

    1. I can’t find a post on how you stabilized the stretchy velvet to use it for drapes. Can you let us in on the secret please?

  16. Thanks to the progress pictures I was able to work out that I subscribed to your blog back at the end of 2013. Lots of changes have taken place in many areas of your home during those years but most especially in your living room.

    My husband and I have just bought our first home together and your story is an inspiration to us.


  17. I’ve been here since you moved in, right after you sold the condo! I’ve used your home as inspiration for every house I’ve lived in since then (6 houses, believe it or not) and have loved following along with you. You’re actually the only blogger I follow. One thing I’m surprised not to see here were the birds/butterflies mural! I remember so many (well, not that many) people getting upset when you painted over that, lol.

  18. I discovered your blog about halfway through this project so this was a fun post for me to be able to go back to the beginning! Thanks for sharing your process.

  19. I meant to say before – the symmetry on the fireplace wall is so satisfying and I love that there isn’t furniture in front of your big gorgeous windows. You’ve inspired me again. I never comment, but how could I keep quiet!

  20. Is there anything from the past iterations that you like more now then when you did it?

    Sometimes when there’s some distance with the past we have a better perspective. I’m kinda shocked you had brown walls at one point.

  21. I remember each iteration of this room! I’m SO glad you found your way with it and the final result screams KRISTI! Bravo!!

  22. I had totally forgotten about the green loveseat before the new gray couch. Whatever happened to that loveseat? Did you repurpose in another room?

    We just bought new chairs and couch – all on backorder, of course, because of pandemic. I’m looking forward to getting rid of lots of second hand buys and old furniture (our couch and one chair is over 20 years old!) and finally getting my livingroom “finished” and all put together like I’ve envisioned lately. I’m sure it’s a relief now that yours is complete … at least for the time being 😉 Love looking back through all the stages!

  23. Wow!! what a transformation!! truly inspiring! I stumbled across your page because I was searching for ideas to replace windows with built ins. I see you considered that as an idea for this living space, but your ultimate finish is beautiful!